BRIDGEWATER, NJ - This time, Ridge finished.
Maddy Lui's golden goal from more than 35 yards away with 4:27 left in the first overtime gave the Ridge girls soccer team a 2-1 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan in the semifinal round of the Section 2, Group 4 state tournament Monday evening.
Third-seeded Ridge (17-4) will move on to face top-seeded Westfield in the sectional final Thursday afternoon in Westfield.
Just nine days earlier, Bridgewater-Raritan defeated Ridge, 2-0, in the Somerset County Tournament championship game, but Ridge had a significant advantage in total shots that day and afterwards, Ridge coach Katie Donahue said, "We did everything but finish."
Monday evening, the Red Devils finished in style, with Lui winding up and propelling a shot into a tailwind that soared more than 100 feet with the arcing majesty of an Aaron Judge home run before settling into the net beyond the reach of the Bridgewater goalie.
"I saw the ball go up," Lui said of the moments preceding her game-winning goal, "and they tried clearing it and it came to me. I aimed, and I was trying to get it into the box, but it just chipped over and went over (the goalie)."
This is the third consecutive year that Bridgewater-Raritan's season has ended with a loss to Ridge in the state tournament, and Lui has been a starting defender on each of those teams.
Lui had nearly given Ridge a 2-0 lead with 15:07 left in regulation on a similar shot from long range that was saved by Mia Phillip of the Panthers. Four minutes later, Katie Arrigan's shot landed just to the right of the net in another near-miss that would have given the Red Devils a second goal.
Second-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan (17-2), which was going into the wind the entire second half and in the one overtime, finally tied it, 1-1, with 7:55 left in regulation on Allison Lowrey's penalty kick after Ridge was called for a hand ball.
"It looked like a header, not a hand ball," Ridge coach Katie Donahue said of the call that awarded Lowrey the PK.
Ridge had taken a 1-0 lead 19 minutes into the game on Molly Mahoney's one-timer from 20 yards away. Emma Wightman, Zoey Mitzner and Kaitlyn Madden all came close to adding to Ridge's lead with shot attempts before the half.
Bridgewater-Raritan attempted just four shots on goal during the flow of action, and each was turned away by Ridge keeper Ally Lindsey. Ridge outshot BRHS, 9-4. Elena Tanga made four saves for BRHS and Phillip, who manned the net in the second half, stopped three Ridge shots.
Once the game got into overtime, the stiffening wind was a significant enough factor coming out of the north that Ridge benefited from gaining the advantage of the breeze at its back for the first of what could have been two OT sessions. Had the game gone into a second OT, Bridgewater would have had the wind.
"We had to strike. We had to finish," Donahue insisted. "We didn't want to leave here the way we left the county final. We just wanted to focus on finishing. We needed that catharsis."
The two Somerset County rivals played another feisty and physical game against one another, with Ridge receiving key contributions in the middle of the field from Sam Weyrauch, Erin Keefe and Caitlyn Laffey in addition to those who attempted shots on goal.
"This is a rivalry for a reason," Donahue said. "To beat Bridgewater-Raritan, you know you have to be on top of your game."